The past four weeks look set to alter society for years, with huge impact on the economy. Peter Curtain reflects on these changes and offers some thoughts on communication in the post-coronavirus world
1. We’re all global now. A virus that emerged from live-animal markets in the regional Chinese city of Wuhan became big when people we know began catching it.
2. Health is important. Work, leisure, politics, entertainment, media – things that normally hold our attention – go out the window when loved ones get sick. People are frightened by symptoms, moved by heart-wrenching radio accounts of bereaved strangers and the heroism of key workers; they’re shocked by the PM’s sudden grave illness. And they turn out daily to bang pots in thanks to strangers in uniforms.
3. The world can change very quickly.
4. As never before, we appreciate the shop workers as they stack shelves and check out groceries, braving infection each day.
5. Knowledge is important. Medical and scientific experts have won unrivalled respect and recognition after years of quiet research and innovation, teaching and treating patients. They have the ear of Government, and what they say matters as never before.
6. Populations will give their leaders latitude, as long as they trust them.
7. It’s time to review, downwards, the social media budgets of certain police forces.
8. Social distancing. Left to their own devices, most people will do the right thing.
9. Human contact was a treasure we took for granted. When it’s over, people will spend more time with family.
10. Young children need less entertainment than we thought. Left alone, they’ll go into their own imaginations – without bespoke outings and visits to soft-play centres.
11. Sustainability matters.
12. A dog is a wonderful companion. Pets bring calm and cheer and provide a reason – now an excuse – to walk each day.
13. WFH. Will we want to re-join the rat race, packed in a tube train – and will employers want to pay for big, costly offices?
14. Pensions, savings and other investments can lose 20% of their value in a few days.
15. The UK is full of Renaissance people – newly discovered students and exponents of art, music, language, culture and rediscovered books. Many of us are more inclined than before to read a book than turn on a device. And we all have things that can be usefully done to our homes.
16. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
17. The thing you really, really need to buy is food – even those joining the swelling ranks of veg growers.
18. Community spirit and endeavour are alive and well. Up and down the country, groups are forming to assist the elderly and vulnerable. We’ve also discovered ‘corona-snitchers’.
19. Their congregations barred from church, mosque and synagogue, religious leaders are taxing their imaginative power, finding new ways to reach their flocks.
20. A key reason for school is social – children miss their friends more than the work.
21. Where you live matters more than what your pad cost – better a shack in the woods than a city penthouse. Balconies and gardens will command a premium.
22. Nature matters – cleaner air, clearer skies and empty streets have reacquainted us with birdsong, walking and cycling.
23. There are no easy answers.
Communicators will want to review their approach and see how the different threads emerging from a post-virus world affect their work.
Marketers have long used the ‘ordinary hero’ angle to align their brands with their target audiences. Now we’ve witnessed the huge extent to which the public will embrace those who quietly get on with making a real difference.
At a time where pop stars are derided for milk-bath messages and old-timers like Bill Gates win praise, not only for getting behind public health campaigns with real money, but for accurately predicting a ruthless pandemic, we’ll need to think even more carefully about recruiting influencers.
More generally, we should remind ourselves that money isn’t everything, people are capable of great good, and individual lives matter.